“Think of a band like a corporation and the manager would be the CEO.” Randy Nichols, founder of Force Media Management
The General Manager
Randy Nichols talks about what it takes to be a successful manager in the music industry.
Randy, we have plenty of readers who don’t understand all of the intricacies of the industry – can you please help explain this question: what does a management firm do for their artists?
The best way to look at what a manager does is to think of a band like a corporation and the manager would be the CEO of that corporation. It’s a manager’s job to look after each area of the bands business such as touring, merchandising, sponsorship, recorded music, publishing. While the manager doesn’t handle every detail of each area for instance you normally would have a booking agent booking a tour and then a tour manager running the day to day of the tour. It is the manager’s job to hold everyone in each area accountable for their job and also to pitch in with ideas and help at all times. At all levels of bands, a manager will be overseeing and handling jobs in countless areas and overall making sure the band is maximizing their marketing opportunities and profits.
How do you go about deciding which artists to work with?
There are three key factors into deciding what bands to manage. The first one is easy, you have to love the music and believe in the band. Second is, can you be in working relationship with the people in the band, managing a band is like a marriage and not everyone is the right fit. The final part is the toughest to address but this is a business and the band has to have the potential to generate enough money to cover the cost for the man hours to do all the work for them. Usually a manager can take on a few “baby bands” and try and take them to the next level but they also need a few revenue generators to pay the overhead (rent, computers, phones, ISP, salaries.) of running a business. Each new client you take on can take away from the work you’re already doing for other artists so you need to be sure you have time to take on a new band. I also analyze if they can generate enough revenue to support hiring a new person to help oversee various areas of work for the band. There are always exceptions to these rules too but you have to always be sure that any new client gets the same level of service your existing clients get and that they don’t take away the level of service from the existing clients too.
With all of the changes in the industry – digital downloads, torrents, social media and all – how has the role of a management company changed?
The manager now has many more areas to look after, when I started managing bands social media didn’t exist and now that’s a huge piece that needs to be cultivated and updated through the day. As record sales drop and labels have less resources, the manager has more responsibilities on the marketing side too. Ultimately anything that a record label or any other partner isn’t doing becomes the managers responsibility.
What is the best advice you can give to new musicians?
Don’t share your music with industry people until you and others around you know it’s ready. You may not get a second chance with many people and you want to make sure you gave yourself the best shot to get listened to. Build a real fanbase in person and not just online. Be honest with the people you talk to in the business because many of us know each other and you don’t want to turn people off with misinformation. Most important is to build a fanbase yourself, a manager can’t make people like you, they can only help you cultivate the base you are starting to build on your own.
What is the worst advice?
I don’t know if there really is bad advice other than don’t be a complete moron but even that works for some artists. Every artist has their own path and what is horrible advice for one band can be the right thing for someone else.
And what makes your firm different than any other?
In addition to artist management we have gotten extremely hands on with advising technology companies in the best ways to operate in the music space. We also spend a lot of time evaluating and using the best of the best new technologies to either promote our artists or to make their organizations function more efficiently.
We have a strong belief that every artists needs their own unique plan and shouldn’t be guided the same way as our other clients. I’ve seen too many managers treat all their bands the same way and a good decision for one client can be extremely damaging for another.
Our firm is extremely hands on with our artists, I’m available to all my bands 24/7 and too often they take advantage of that but they are the boss and they deserve the attention they need. I also try to help my artists manage their personal lives to some degree because if they have major problems at home it can do serious damage to the business. For instance, I’ve helped some band members learn to budget their own money, help them negotiate buying houses, cars and anything else they need. I’m also equally as comfortable meeting with a CEO of a major corporation as I am hanging out with kids in a hall show.
Thank you Randy!
Randy Nichols represents music clients UNDEROATH, THE STARTING LINE, THE ALMOST, AARON GILLESPIE and PERSON L as well as producer AARON SPRINKLE. In addition, Randy co-manages FAKE PROBLEMS and HIT THE LIGHTS with Matt Watts.
This interview was originally published by Mike Dias for Ultimate Ears